Plans for a $260 million gondola system are moving forward in Branson, 18 months after the developer first brought the idea to the city.
Photo courtesy of: American Gondola, Inc.
According to the developer, the gondola system will run along the Highway 76 Corridor in Branson. Jeff Green, of American Gondola, says they are still finalizing the plan, however they're on track to bring this form of transportation to the Ozarks.
City leaders say the project could bring recreation and alternative transportation to the tourist town.
"It can serve as both an attraction that people could ride for enjoyment, but also it could alleviate traffic congestion along Highway 76. It could help people get to and from employment," Planning and Development Director Joel Hornickel said.
In 2016, the city entered into an agreement with American Gondola, Inc. called a memorandum of understanding.
"Essentially, it gave this particular company a window of time that the city would not entertain any other proposals from another company doing the same thing," Hornickel said.
Earlier this month, Hornickel says the developers of the gondola project met with city leaders to update them on the planning process.
"They have been working on revisions to the alignment of the actual ride, if you will," Hornickel said.
Green says American Gondola has been planning and preparing for this project for the past three years. He says the company is currently in negotiations with contractors and are also speaking with property owners along The Strip, with whom they’ll work on lease and buying agreements.
Hornickel says gaining support and cooperation with the existing business community is essential to the process.
"There will be properties impacted from a visual standpoint and potentially an activity standpoint," Hornickel said.
According to current plans, the gondola will start near the Branson Landing and stretch to the intersection of Highway 76 and Shepherd of the Hills Expressway, with ten terminals in between.
"Equally spaced, giving people opportunity at key locations along the 76 corridor to get on and off," Hornickel said.
Not everyone is convinced the gondola will help with traffic.
"It think it'll be a tourist attraction, but I don't think it'll alleviate the traffic," Branson Visitor George Gabriel said.
Still, many visitors and locals say they'll give the gondola a try.
"Absolutely, we are up for almost anything," Gabriel said.
Green says if everything goes as planned, they hope to begin construction on the gondola sometime next year.